SEOUL: The 53rd Republic of Korea (ROK)-United States (US) Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) was held in Seoul on Thursday. ROK Minister of National Defense Suh Wook and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III led their respective delegations, which included senior defense and foreign affairs officials. On December 01, 2021, ROK Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Won In-Choul, and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, presided over the 46th ROK-US Military Committee Meeting (MCM).
The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed the vision of the leaders of both nations, for a region governed by democratic norms, human rights, and the rule of law, as affirmed in the May 2021 ROK-US Summit. They shared a common understanding that the US-ROK Alliance is stronger than ever, and is based on shared values of mutual trust, freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
The Minister and the Secretary noted that the SCM has played a pivotal role in the continued development of the ROK-US Alliance, and will continue to be a cornerstone venue to discuss and affirm national commitments. Both sides pledged to continue to develop the Alliance—the linchpin of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Indo-Pacific region—in a mutually reinforcing and future-oriented manner.
The Minister and the Secretary reviewed the current security environment on the Korean Peninsula and in the region and discussed cooperative measures between the two nations. The Minister and the Secretary assessed that the ROK-US Alliance is strong and reaffirmed the two nations’ mutual commitment to a combined defense as agreed in the ROK-US Mutual Defense Treaty to defend the ROK.
The leaders discussed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) recent missiles launches and emphasized the importance of increased cooperation to posture for and defend against omnidirectional threats. The Secretary reiterated the firm US commitment to providing extended deterrence to the ROK utilizing the full range of US defense capabilities, including nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities. Both leaders committed to strengthening the Alliance’s deterrence posture by leveraging all available Alliance capabilities, including cyber and space capabilities.
The two sides pledged to continue coordination and cooperation toward their shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as their common objective to address the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Minister and the Secretary stressed the importance of efforts to resume diplomacy and dialogue, and called for full implementation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions by the international community, including the DPRK. They reaffirmed their common belief that diplomacy and dialogue, based on previous inter-Korean, US-DPRK, and multilateral commitments—such as the inter-Korean 2018 Panmunjom Declaration and the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, the 2018 US-DPRK Singapore Joint Statement, and the 2005 Six-Party Talks Joint Statement—are essential to achieve the complete denuclearization and establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The leaders committed to supporting diplomatic efforts by maintaining combined readiness and international sanctions. Both leaders urged the DPRK to uphold its international agreements.
The Minister and the Secretary noted that the various measures carried out by the ROK and DPRK military authorities for the implementation of the Armistice Agreement, Panmunjom Declaration, and the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) set conditions for easing tensions, reducing the threat of war and preventing accidental border clashes on the Korean Peninsula.
The Minister and the Secretary also shared a common understanding that the implementation of the CMA has effectively contributed to preventing accidental clashes on the Korean Peninsula. Secretary Austin expressed support for robust inter-Korean dialogue, engagement, and cooperation, and pledged to continue close coordination and cooperation between ROK and US defense authorities on this matter.
The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed the role of the United Nations Command (UNC) in maintaining and enforcing the Armistice Agreement. Both leaders reaffirmed that the UNC has contributed to the successful maintenance of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula for 68 years, and that it will continue to carry out its mission and tasks with the utmost respect for ROK sovereignty. The Minister additionally conveyed the ROK position that the Northern Limit Line (NLL) has been an effective means of separating ROK and DPRK military forces and preventing military tension to date.
The Minister and the Secretary assessed that US forces in the ROK have played a critical role in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula for more than 68 years, and reaffirmed that going forward, US Forces Korea (USFK) are to continue to play an important role in preventing armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, and in promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia.
Secretary Austin noted that the Indo-Pacific region is the Department of Defense’s priority theater, and reaffirmed the unshakable commitment of the United States to the combined defense of the ROK—as enshrined in the Mutual Defense Treaty. He also highlighted the US commitment to maintain current USFK force levels in order to defend the ROK.
In particular, the Minister and the Secretary assessed that the ROK-US Deterrence Strategy Committee (DSC) tabletop exercise (TTX) held at the 20th Korea-US Integrated Defense Dialogue strengthened the Alliance combined deterrence posture and enhanced the Alliance’s ability to execute the Tailored Deterrence Strategy (TDS). The Secretary reaffirmed that the US extended deterrent remains ironclad. He and the Minister pledged to enhance the Alliance combined deterrence posture through the TDS to more effectively account for advancing DPRK nuclear, other WMD, and missile threats.
Moreover, the Minister and the Secretary noted ROK efforts to establish the conditions for the stable stationing of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery at Camp Carroll and committed to continuing close cooperation toward the final goal of routine and unfettered access.
The Minister and the Secretary received a report on the results of the ROK-US MCM from the ROK-US Combined Forces Command (CFC) Commander, General Paul J. LaCamera. On this basis, the leaders pledge to maintain Fight Tonight readiness, enhance combined defense capabilities, and update relevant operation plans (OPLANs). They also assessed that there was significant progress in effectively responding to a variety of security challenges following changes to the strategic environment.
On this basis, the Minister and the Secretary approved new Strategic Planning Guidance (SPG) to guide Alliance planning efforts—which reflects changes to the strategic environment. The Minister and the Secretary assessed that the updated planning guidance will guide military OPLANs to more effectively deter—and as necessary respond to—DPRK threats to the US-ROK Alliance.
The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed the need to continue to conduct combined exercises and training events on the Korean Peninsula to strengthen Alliance readiness. Both sides assessed that the 21-1 and 21-2 Combined Command Post Trainings (CCPT), despite the COVID-19 pandemic, were conducted successfully in compliance with social distancing measures. They also assessed that in addition to CCPT, other combined training events performed throughout the year in a balanced manner added strength to the ROK-US combined defense posture and military readiness. Both leaders pledged to closely cooperate to conduct both CCPTs in 2022, noting that they are critical component of maintaining Alliance readiness. The two sides assessed that the ROK-US Alliance must continue to focus on military readiness and on the combined defense posture to address dynamic changes on the Korean Peninsula.
The Minister and the Secretary emphasized that continuous training opportunities for USFK are critical to maintaining a strong combined defense posture. The Secretary and the Minister concurred in the importance of communication and cooperation between the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) and USFK to coordinate for more effective and productive joint use of ROK facilities and airspace for the USFK training required to maintain readiness within our strong combined defense posture. The two leaders also committed to continued cooperation toward the development of a combined joint multi-purpose live-fire training complex.
The Minister and the Secretary expressed appreciation for the CFC, which has played a central role in deterring war on the Korean Peninsula and defending the ROK since its establishment in 1978. The Minister and Secretary reviewed preparations for—and acknowledged joint efforts towards—the relocation of the CFC Headquarters (HQ) to Camp Humphreys.
The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed that the CFC HQ relocation to Camp Humphreys will contribute to enhanced combined operational capabilities and a strengthened combined defense posture, and pledged to closely cooperate in order to complete the relocation by next year.
The Minister and the Secretary reviewed the progress on directed tasks from the Conditions-based Operational Control Transition Plan (COTP). The two sides noted progress made in the COTP and discussed the way forward for wartime operational control (OPCON) transition to the Future Combined Forces Command (F-CFC)
The Minister and the Secretary reaffirmed that the conditions stated in the bilaterally approved COTP must be met before the wartime OPCON is transitioned to the F-CFC. The Minister and the Secretary pledged to conduct a Full Operational Capability (FOC) assessment of the F-CFC in 2022.
In parallel, the two leaders committed to complete the comprehensive joint study on COTP capabilities as well as the annex and appendix rewrites to COTP Change 1 by the Spring 2022 Korea-US Integrated Defense Dialogue. They also pledged to complete a ROK-US bilateral assessment on ROK critical military capabilities and Alliance comprehensive response capabilities against DPRK nuclear and missile threats by the 54th SCM.
The Minister and the Secretary acknowledged that progress has been made toward meeting the conditions for wartime OPCON transition through ROK-US joint efforts. Minister Suh emphasized that he will systemically and actively pursue the critical military capabilities necessary for wartime OPCON transition, while continuously expanding defense capabilities of the ROK military that are necessary for leading the future combined defense. Secretary Austin reaffirmed the US commitment to bridging capabilities—until the ROK acquisition of these capabilities are completed—as well as enduring capabilities consistent with the COTP. Furthermore, the two leaders noted that the ROK plans to acquire and develop critical military capabilities, and decided to closely coordinate on ROK acquisitions plan for these capabilities. The two sides committed to engage in regular evaluation and review of progress in OPCON transition implementation at the annual SCMs and MCMs in order to maintain a steadfast combined defense system.
The Minister and the Secretary decided to continue strengthening cooperation in various areas, including space and cyber, in order to ensure an effective response to emerging threats and to bolster comprehensive Alliance response capabilities. The Secretary and the Minister concurred that developing and cooperating in new domains will enhance the Alliance’s combined defense posture against a range of adversary threats.
The Minister and the Secretary acknowledged the efforts of the respective defense authorities working to promote critical infrastructure, including information and space systems, and to improve the security of such systems. The two leaders expressed their shared vision of fostering closer cooperation in high-tech domains such as cyber and space.
The two sides pledged to explore measures to strengthen space capabilities as an Alliance through the Space Cooperation Working group and the associated ROK-US space policy joint study. This includes exploring means of improving space situational awareness information-sharing systems, and expanding bilateral and multilateral combined exercises and training events to improve the Alliance space operation capabilities. They also committed to exploring opportunities to develop Alliance space professionals. The two sides committed to maintaining close communication and coordination regarding the cyber domain—including the Cyber Cooperation Working group scheduled to meet in February 2022—in order to share trends of cyber threats and discuss corresponding policy updates. They also pledged to progressively develop cooperation and exchanges between the respective cyber commands with the aim of discussing and promoting mutual interests.
The Minister and the Secretary pledged to continue exchange activities between ROK-US consultative bodies that address defense research and development, as well as industrial cooperation, capability acquisition, lifecycle logistics, and technology security, and concurred on the necessity to advance Alliance priorities in the areas of capability development, interoperability, acquisition, and sustainment.
The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to prioritize revisions of bilateral consultative bodies in order to strengthen efficacy and timeliness of cooperation in areas of defense industries and research and development. The two leaders reaffirmed that ROK-US science and technology cooperation has expanded in various domains such as space, quantum, sensor/electronic warfare, cyber defense, artificial intelligence, automation, and directed energy. They also pledged to seek cooperative measures in the area of 5G and next-generation mobile communications (6G). The two sides assessed that such cooperation is continuing to develop in a way that furthers ROK-US mutual interests.
In consideration of complex regional and global security situation, the Minister and the Secretary pledged to continue promoting defense and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and the world where mutual interests align, in order to better respond to regional and global security challenges. In this context, the two leaders committed to seeking cooperation between ROK’s New Southern Policy and the US vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of the rules-based international order and adherence to international rules and norms, including those of freedom of navigation and overflight.